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Ten Best - The Fights of 2009

Thomas Gerbasi, UFC - Action. Drama. High Stakes. All key elements of a great fight, and we’ve had more than a few memorable battles to choose from in 2009. But in the interest of space, we’ve had to narrow them down to just ten, and here they are…

By Thomas Gerbasi

Action. Drama. High Stakes. All key elements of a great fight, and we’ve had more than a few memorable battles to choose from in 2009. But in the interest of space, we’ve had to narrow them down to just ten, and here they are…



10 – Martin Kampmann Decisions Carlos Condit – April 1 – UFC Fight Night

This was one of those fights that hardcore fans were anticipating from the moment it was announced, and Kampmann and Condit delivered when the bell rang. Fast-paced from start to finish, this battle between two of the welterweight division’s brightest young stars had a little bit of everything, from crisp standup exchanges to solid ground work and submission attempts. And though Condit, the former WEC welterweight champion, fell short in his UFC debut, he made it clear that he belonged among the top 170-pounders, a place where Kampmann has also set up camp. Watch video


9 - Lyoto Machida Decisions Mauricio “Shogun” Rua – October 24 – UFC 104

What the light heavyweight championship bout between Lyoto Machida and Mauricio Rua lacked in frenetic action, it certainly delivered in terms of drama, both during and after the bout. Previously untouchable in his MMA career, Machida proved to be human in his first title defense thanks to the resurgence of Rua, the former PRIDE star who delivered the type of top level performance UFC fans had been waiting for. And no matter who you thought won the fight, one thing you can agree on is that this was one of the most memorable title fights in recent history. Watch video


8 - Tyson Griffin Decisions Rafael Dos Anjos – April 1 – UFC Fight Night

A consistent member of the Fight of the Night club, Tyson Griffin has apparently made it his business to get himself in precarious positions, escape, and come back swinging en route to victory. That was the pattern against Dos Anjos, who showed off his underrated striking ability and his renowned ground game before Griffin took control en route to a decision win (and his fifth Fight of the Night award) that was a shutout on the scorecards, but anything but that in reality. Watch more from Tyson Griffin



7 – Rick Story submits Brian Foster – September 19 – UFC 103

Most of the time at this level of the game, you’ll see fighters circle each other tentatively in the early moments of a fight just to get their bearings while looking for openings to attack. Not Rick Story and Brian Foster. These two lightweight prospects met in the middle of the Octagon at UFC 103 and tried to tear each other apart with haymakers almost as soon as the bell rang. What resulted was an unforgettable first round that was followed up by an even more memorable finish that saw Story submit Foster with an arm triangle – from inside Foster’s guard no less. Watch video


6 – Yoshihiro Akiyama Decisions Alan Belcher – July 11 – UFC 100

After seeing them together before the fight and in the Octagon, I admit that I thought it was going to be a rough night for Yoshihiro Akiyama against the much bigger Alan Belcher on July 11th, with the best case scenario for the Japanese star being to take Belcher down and work from there, because standing with the dynamic Biloxi product wasn’t going to turn out well. I was wrong, and I’m glad, because we got a memorable scrap out of the two middleweights that fans are still debating today. And regardless of who you thought deserved the decision win, you can’t argue about the quality of the fight, as both men were giving and taking flush shots throughout all three rounds. Of course, the lasting image to me is of Akiyama moving forward and throwing while trying to see out of his almost swollen shut eye. That’s the way you make a debut. Watch video

5 – Carlos Condit Decisions Jake Ellenberger – September 16 – UFC Fight Night

UFC newcomer Jake Ellenberger came roaring out of his corner at the start of his bout against Carlos Condit and proceeded to almost decapitate the former WEC champion with right hands that stunned and dropped him. If that wasn’t enough, Ellenberger then sunk in a guillotine choke that again forced Condit to dig deep to survive. The second round’s action was just as frantic, but Condit slowly worked himself back into the fight on the mat, and by the time the third round ended, he had done enough on the judges’ scorecards to eke out a split decision win, his first in the Octagon. Watch them analyze the fight


4 –Rich Franklin Outlasts Wanderlei Silva – June 13 – UFC 99

Rich Franklin and Wanderlei Silva. Put them in the Octagon together and it had to be good. And it was. But just before the opening bell, I wondered if the cut to 195 pounds had drained Silva too much and would leave him vulnerable to the crisp standup attack of Franklin. Early on, it looked that way. But then ‘The Axe Murderer’ warmed up, got a rhythm, and it was like the PRIDE days all over again as he traded blows with reckless abandon. Franklin didn’t back down either, and the combination of the two MMA superstars’ styles made for an action-packed, dramatic finish to a bout that was the perfect end to the UFC’s first night in Germany. Watch Countdown to UFC 99


3 – Nate Quarry Wins War with Tim Credeur – September 16 – UFC Fight Night

In the early stages of the Nate Quarry vs Tim Credeur bout, Quarry just couldn’t get out of first gear as Credeur tagged him with shot after shot that would have crumbled most fighters. Nate Quarry doesn’t fit the mold of most fighters though, and after surviving a horrific first round, he landed the equalizer in round two and evened the score as he made Credeur show the type of heart he displayed in the first frame. Bloodied and battered, the two managed to make it into the third round, and again, Quarry weathered a fierce assault to drop Credeur hard to the mat. But there wasn’t going to be a finish in this one, only a 15 minute testament to the power of skill and will that makes you appreciate the sacrifices made by MMA fighters even more. Watch video

2 - Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira Decisions Randy Couture – August 29 – UFC 102

At Octagonside that August night in Portland, I likened this fight to the 1975 ‘Thrilla in Manila’ between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. I stand by that opinion today, knowing that while “Minotauro” Nogueira and Randy Couture may be in the final third of their storied careers, when you put two great fighters together, there’s just something that turns the clock back and lets you get a look at what made them so special. This was 15 minutes of fighting that anyone who saw it won’t soon forget, and it was also a primer for the rest of those young bucks out there on how you represent the sport and yourself when the bell rings. Watch video


1 – Diego Sanchez Decisions Clay Guida - June 20 - The Ultimate Fighter 9 Finale 

If Diego Sanchez and Clay Guida stood in opposite corners and didn’t engage for 14 minutes and 30 seconds, the first 30 seconds of their bout still would have earned them a spot here, because that’s how good the frenetic, toe-to-toe opening was. Luckily for us, they kept the pace high wherever they ended up throughout the three round battle, and this fight had something for everyone. If someone ever wonders why the lightweights are considered the most exciting division in the sport, show them this fight. I hate to say a fight has no losers, because it’s hard to console the fighter on the short end of the decision, but if you watched Clay Guida on the night of June 20 and said ‘I don’t want to see that guy fight again,’ you’re crazy. As for Sanchez, the win solidified him as a top contender at 155 pounds after just two bouts, and even though he fell short in his December title shot against BJ Penn, fights like the one against Guida guarantee that we’ll still be seeing plenty of the “Nightmare” in the coming years. Watch video

Honorable Mention – Alan Belcher-Wilson Gouveia, Damarques Johnson-Edgar Garcia, Nate Diaz-Melvin Guillard, Dan Henderson-Rich Franklin, Marcus Davis-Chris Lytle, Joe Lauzon-Jeremy Stephens, Matt Grice-Matt Veach, Paul Kelly-Troy Mandaloniz, Sam Stout-Matt Wiman, Frankie Edgar-Sean Sherk, Tim Hague-Pat Barry, Chris Lytle-Kevin Burns, Joe Stevenson-Nate Diaz, Jim Miller-Mac Danzig, Matt Hughes-Matt Serra, Josh Neer-Mac Danzig, Mark Munoz-Nick Catone, Pat Barry-Antoni Hardonk, Josh Koscheck-Anthony Johnson, Frankie Edgar-Matt Veach, Stefan Struve-Paul Buentello, Cain Velasquez-Cheick Kongo.

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